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The Itis: CFF Treats - Observations from Week Four
The battle for QB1 is heating up, a plethora of new volume pig RBs emerge, and what's going wrong with one of VP's favourite pre-season offences?
I present to you "The Luther." A full-pound burger patty covered in cheese, grilled onion, five strips of bacon, all sandwiched between—Two Krispy Kreme doughnuts!
- Granddad, The Boondocks
Freshman QB Sensations
It’s been a good season for true and redshirt freshman QBs to emerge. Four names in particular standout in Zeon Chriss, Jaylon Raynor, Byrum Brown, and Anthony Colandrea—and we’re only in Week Five. It might not always be smooth sailing for these cats over the remainder of the season, but they’ve all put me on notice going forward.
(USF) Byrum Brown — Brown has been absolutely killing it this season for the Bulls. I actually wrote about him in the offseason, and had hoped that new head coach Alex Golesh would give him the green light. In the end, it worked out—but not in the way I was thinking. Presumed starter—Gerry Bohanon has been nursing a shoulder injury all season, and his return timeline is still unknown. At this point, Brown has been playing so well for them that it presents a conundrum for the staff should Bohanon return to health this season. The #1 seed in my home league—The Golden Pig Invitational (GPI) has Brown rostered and he’s been a boon for his team, so from a pure competitive standpoint, I hope Bohanon comes back in and reclaims his position. It’s hard to see that unfolding at this point, though. It should be noted that all of the names in this segment have rushing upside, but Brown’s rushing upside is truly something else, finishing his first four games this season with 25, 17, 23 and 14 rushing attempts. He currently has 5(!) rushing TDs in four games. The floor is always going to be strong with a player like this.
(ULLAF) Zeon Chriss — Superstar redshirt freshman Chriss came in relief of injured QB Ben Woolridge in Week Three, and hasn’t looked back since. He kicked off his first game with a bang vs. a solid UAB squad, torching them along the ground in particular. The nice thing about a player like this is that his skillset is the perfect konami code for CFF due to his rushing upside and high completion percentage. He did throw a couple of picks vs. UB over the weekend, but that can be excused now and again for the youngster. In a 24-team dynasty league I’m in, Chriss was acquired for just under $200 dollars of that manager’s $500 dollar budget, and this was the week before he popped off against UB. So… yea, he’s a hot commodity right now. In fact, he’s even relevant in regular CFF leagues—I covered him in last week’s Pig Market article.
(ARK ST) Jaylen Raynor — Unlike Chriss, Raynor’s actually a true freshman, making this profile even more impressive. However, like his ULLAF competitor, Raynor also got his start filling in for an injured QB—well, sort of. When starting QB JT Strout went down with injury in Week Two, the Red Wolves originally turned to redshirt sophomore Jaxon Dailey. When Dailey wasn’t getting it done vs. Stony Brook, Raynor got his opportunity. The kid ended up throwing a TD pass on only six attempts, which must have given the coaches some confidence in him, because he got his first official start the next week vs. Southern Miss. Raynor rose to the occasion with a stellar performance (43.35 points), and looks to have solidified a role for himself there going forward. While we won’t know what the plan is once Strout comes back, I know there are some in the CFF community that have referred to Raynor as the ‘G5 Kyler Murray’, before he even touched a college football field, so this QB situation will be interesting to watch going forward. From my perspective, I don’t see how the coaches could go to anyone else if Raynor continues to shine like he did on Saturday.
(UVA) Anthony Colandrea — Colandrea might not necessarily be there just yet from a pure CFF standpoint, but he is showing a lot of promise in his true freshman season. He took over the reigns in Week Two vs. a strong JMU defence, and actually managed to finish with an eye-brow raising 76.9% completion on 26 pass attempts—not bad, not bad at all. One of the biggest beneficiaries of Colandrea taking over has actually been WR Malik Washington, who was covered on this week’s Pig Market. Like the three above names, Colandrea has dual-threat upside, making him an attractive option going forward in CFF, if UVA can manage to score more TDs. Unfortunately, it appears that the staff will be going back to Tony ‘The Iron Musket’ Muskett this weekend. UVA head coach Tony Elliot has been adamant in the past that players on his team won’t lose their starting positions due to injury. An admirable rule to coach by, however I’d assert that in this case it is actually Muskett’s play compared to Colandrea’s that would be a good reason to change plans. On the other hand, I write articles about CFF, and he coaches CFB for a living—undoubtedly, Elliot knows more on the matter than I.
NC State’s Offence & Brennan Armstrong
It’s time to take some accountability here on Armstrong. I touted him in the offseason as a player who had as good a chance as any to finish as QB1 this season, and — for the most part — I stand by that claim when you look at what he did in 2021 with Robert Anae as his OC at UVA. That reunion hasn’t garnered the same results at NC State so far, and it appears unlikely that Armstrong will finish anywhere close to QB1 in CFF. In the end, CFF is similar to investing from this standpoint: you can have well-thought out, commercial ideas that have every reason to succeed, and yet don’t. But that doesn’t invalidate the process. That’s just more of a function of: shit happens. One thing I will say is that I expect that the offence overall will continue to improve as the season progresses. Last Friday, we witnessed the emergence of superstar freshman Kevin Concepcion, which will undoubtedly aid Armstrong’s numbers going forward also.
A few factors that I think are hindering the play of NC State’s offence include: it’s a lot of change over the course of one offseason, and also Armstrong might have regressed a little in terms of play. Regarding the first concern, this is pretty typical whenever a new OC comes in and revolutionizes an offence, but my thinking in the offseason was that with the QB already being familiar with this system, things should move along smoothly. That doesn’t appear to have happened. What’s even more puzzling is that we literally saw Anae do this successfully at another program in Syracuse last season with Garret Shrader. On the latter concern, while 2022 was a rough year for Armstrong, it was difficult to determine how much of that was him missing the system that Anae used, and how much of that was just him not playing as well. It seems it was probably a combination of both.
Early QB1 Candidates
Speaking of QB1, here are some early QB1 candidates that are playing lights out so far:
Michael Penix Jr.
Similar to WR last week, outside of Salter and Daniels, the top dawgs at this position play in systems that are known to be elite for QB production. Even in the case of Salter, we can look at Jamey Chadwell’s history with Coastal Carolina and see some solid patterns of production.
Another noticeable pattern is the strength in the PAC12 this season. Arguably the top three QBs in CFF right now all hail from this conference, and there are also other QBs that are extremely strong in Shedeur Sanders, Bo Nix and Jayden De Laura. Nix most likely will be firmly in the conversation for top CFF QB as Oregon begins playing more games in-conference, but his numbers so far are not really anything special (28.84 FPG in 4-pt passing TD formats).
WKU’s Austin Reed will also likely be in the conversation going forward as we enter conference play.
Something that’s also interesting here is that very few of these players were early round picks in CFF drafts. Obviously, there is Caleb Williams who likely went 1.01 in your drafts, but then outside of Michael Penix Jr., all of the other players at the top of the FPG average currently (which is what I based the bullet points above on) were mid or late round picks. There are even several others such as Jaxon Dart, Thomas Castellanos, Haynes King, and Jacob Zeno, who likely weren’t even drafted in most leagues that are proving to be some of the most productive QBs in CFF. QB very much is a position where there is always a plethora of options, both within the draft and on the waiver wire through the first month of the season. For this reason, I generally prescribe the tactic that your early round picks should be used on other positions.
New VPs emerging?
Generally, new VPs emerging at RB this late in the season are few and far between, and typically come about through injury to other players. This week was a strangely productive week for new RBs emerging, and I have taken the liberty of listing some of the notable names below.
(Toledo) Peny Boone
(Air Force) Emmanuel Michel
(Utah) Jaylon Glover
(Nebraska) Anthony Grant
(Texas Tech) Tahj Brooks
(Texas) Jonathan Brooks
(Wisconsin) Braelon Allen (due to Chez Mellusi injury)
(Houston) Parker Jenkins
Texas’ Jonathan Brooks has actually been pretty steady throughout the season, but I thought I’d just acknowledge that it seems he’s taken over as RB1 through four weeks so far, so hat tip to him and his shareholders.
Virtually all of the other names were covered in some detail during this week’s Pig Market article. One exception is Braelon Allen, who is rostered in every league already. I was skeptical this offseason about Allen’s prospects this season in a two-man committee within an offence that would likely be passing the ball more often than before. However, he’s done well with TD production thus far, but more importantly, it would appear that his committee mate—Chez Mellusi, is out for the season now. This should result in more steady volume for Allen, elevating his CFF stock quite considerably for the remainder of the 2023 season. Allen now becomes a potential candidate for RB1, assuming he now sees carry volume closer to his 2021 freshman season after Mellusi went down.
I’m more in wait-and-see mode on Jenkins, Glover and Grant. I provided my thoughts on Boone and Michel on this week’s Pig Market.
Drop ‘Em Segment
(NC State) Brennan Armstrong — As much as it pains me to do so, I think it’s time to drop the shifty lefty—Brennan ‘Konami Code’ Armstrong. It’s unfortunate, but every year there are players like this, who have every reason to succeed, but just don’t.
(UAB) Jermain Brown Jr. — I don’t have any shares of Brown, and I’m not sure if he’s really still rostered in a lot of leagues. But it seems quite clear now that he is not going to be seeing anywhere close to the volume his predecessor—DeWayne McBride saw. We’ll see what happens as they enter into conference play, Brown did have a good game touch volume-wise vs. GaSo in Week Two (17 touches). The last two weeks have been poor game scripts. With a game incoming vs. Tulane, he’ll likely be in for another rough outing.
(OU) Jalil Farooq — Another unfortunate miss for me, though I didn’t end up acquiring any shares of his. I was right that there would be value in this room (yea, big woop VP), but it appears I honed in on the wrong name. Andrel Anthony seems to have taken hold of the alpha role in the WR room, and while Farooq has had his moments (24.6 points vs. Tulsa in Week Three), there are probably better options available in your league currently.
(Minnesota) Sean Tyler — By now it should be obvious that Tyler has been relegated to the RB2 role behind Darius Taylor, who figures to get most of the carries going forward. Not sure what the future holds for Tyler, a senior transfer from WMU.
(Tennessee) WRs — If you’re in a Bestball format, you could be forgiven for still holding onto your shares of Vol WRs, after all, each one figures to have at least one big game at some point. Predicting when that will happen, however, is less elementary. I don’t see the value in holding onto Bru McCoy, Squirrel White, Dont’e Thornton, or Ramel Keyton. There are almost assuredly better options available on your waiver wire in standard leagues. White is probably the most rostered of these names, I’d cut him ASAP and not think twice about it. His target volume is good (he sees around 6-7 per game) but his YPC shows most of his work is underneath.
(Nevada) Jamaal Bell — Jamaal Bell had a terrific start to the season seeing 10 targets vs. USC and 11 targets vs. Idaho. However, in the last two weeks his target numbers have dropped precipitously—5 in back-to-back weeks now. I did some further investigating and found that Nevada’s QB picked up an injury in their latest game, but it appears to have happened pretty late. I am teetering on the edge of giving up hope on Bell, I have actually dropped him in one of my leagues, and this week’s matchup isn’t the most favourable—Fresno State. That being said, Bell’s most productive game thus far came vs. USC in a game where they got blown out. He then has a BYE week. As a slot receiver, the backup QB getting the start could actually be a good thing, as these players typically hone in on safer targets to pass to. Something to also note about Nevada is: they are really bad. They are currently 0-4, but the schedule does open up for them starting in Week Seven vs. UNLV. Is Bell worth holding onto until then? Probably not, but it depends on your team’s situation.
Rodney Hammond bounce back SZN, but then injured — Pitt RB Rodney Hammond Jr. had a great game on Saturday vs. UNC. Contrary to what many may believe, this performance was not a random event—head coach Pat Narduzzi was adamant about getting Hammond more touches, and while the carry volume actually matched his total from the week before (14), the Panthers were much more efficient on the ground. His carry numbers likely would have been higher, had he not left the game early due to injury (undisclosed). The extent of this ailment is currently unknown, so that is something to monitor. However, it looks like the potential we all thought was there is finally coming true, as the staff are fully bought in on #Pigging him for the foreseeable future.
JT Daniels injury — Daniels has been quietly productive thus far in the season but he did pick up an injury vs. USF on Saturday. He is apparently expected to be available this upcoming weekend, but you know how it goes with these things.
De’Quann Finn out for awhile? — Finn picked up an injury to his throwing shoulder on Saturday, and in his absence, Tucker Gleason performed admirably. Gleason also offers some upside with his legs, so keep an eye out here, there could be some value in MACtion if Finn misses an extended amount of time. We’ve seen this situation play out down in USF, where Gerry Bohanon still has not recovered from his throwing shoulder injury. Toledo plays NIU this weekend.
Illinois RB Reggie Love injury — Love was apparently back at practice on Wednesday after getting nicked up on Saturday. His absence cleared the way for Josh McCray to see a marked increase in carry volume (14), so keep an eye on this situation. McCray could be a sneaky play this weekend with a tasty matchup vs. Purdue incoming.
Weekly YouTube Video
This week I sat down with Jared Palmgren from Campus2Canton to discuss the upcoming weekend of CFB.
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